VATICAN CITY, Feb. 23 (UPI) -- Vatican officials say media are spreading gossip about "money, sex and power" in the Catholic Church to boost profits and influence the election of a new pope.
Italian media reports this week suggested the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI is due in part to the alleged discovery of a network of gay clergy among church hierarchy, the British newspaper The Guardian said.
In a statement, the Vatican secretariat of state said, "It is deplorable that as we draw closer to the time of the beginning of the conclave [of cardinals to elect a successor]... that there be a widespread distribution of often unverified, unverifiable or completely false news stories that cause serious damage to persons and institutions."
The Rev. Federico Lombardi, the Vatican's top spokesman, said in a commentary on the Vatican website the media was taking advantage of the news of the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI to spread "gossip" and "slander," the BBC reported Saturday.
Without directly addressing allegations of intrigue and corruption in the church, Lombardi said those making the charges had no authority to deliver such judgments.
"Whoever has money, sex and power at the forefront of their mind sees the world through these parameters and cannot see beyond, even when looking at the Church," he said.
Lombardi suggested media outlets were using "unacceptable pressure" to affect the votes of the cardinals who will decide the next pope at the conclave in March.
Two American prelates and an Irish cardinal have been urged by some groups to stay away from the conclave because of questions about their involvement in covering up sex abuse by priests, the Italian news agency ANSA reported.
The number of cardinals who will attend the conclave was reduced to 116 Friday when Indonesian Cardinal Julius Riyadi Darmaatmadja said he would not go to Rome due to health concerns.